Before pregnancy I was a sleeping champ. I could win medals for how much I could sleep. It was beautiful. After getting pregnant that ability slowly, but surely, faded. By the end of my 40 weeks I felt like I barely slept at all. I was actually convinced that I would get more sleep after delivery because I would not be so uncomfortable (and all the moms laugh and laugh). I was a little naive.
When our little man was born I did continue to lose sleep. No surprise. That first week or so was brutal (and from what I hear we had it pretty easy). I don’t have a ton of experience being a completely zombie, but I was definitely feeling some baby blues. Things took a turn for the better when I listened to my mama’s advice – imagine that. It took a few weeks, but by about 6 weeks our baby was sleeping from about 10 pm until roughly 5 am.
I have many friends that have babies who struggle sleeping at night. This could come for a variety of reasons and can be more common for breast fed babies, but there are ways to combat those sleepless nights. So, for you new and future mommies, here are the steps we took to help our little one sleep through the night.
Using the Bassinet Only at Night
We have quite a few places where our baby can safely sleep: the bassinet, the swing, the rocker-sleeper. Of those options, only the bassinet is used during the night. When he is in there he knows that it is time to sleep. If he wakes up in the middle of the night (and is not in need of anything) typically he just falls back to sleep. Babies just love consistency, so pick a place that you can use only as a night time sleeping place for your baby and stick to it.
Constant Exposure to Light During the Day
The body has a natural clock that helps determine when it is time to sleep. That clock is strongly affected by light. For example when I was in college and living in the dorms my sleep schedule got thrown way off. One of the big reasons for this is that I rarely left the dorms and often saw very little sunlight. My body didn’t really seem to know what time is was and that had me up until all hours of the night.
The same thing can happen with your baby. If he doesn’t spend time in the light during, the day his little body can’t find a good natural rhythm. Try allowing as much natural light as possible into whatever space he spends the majority of his time and teach him to nap in the light. This will help him figure out what time he should really be sleeping. Plus, it will make napping while not at home easier.
Set a Routine
This one is huge. I’ve been told to just feed my baby when he is showing signs of hunger. While I was trying to let him figure out how often he needed to eat my mom stopped me. She strongly suggested I wake him every two and a half to three hours to feed him during the day and then let him sleep as long as he could at night. She said that if he gets all the calories he needs during the day that he would’t need to wake up as often at night. Another suggestion she gave me was to sit him up and burp him every three to five minutes to help him stay awake longer and eat more during feedings. These were extremely pivotal to my success and made a big difference in his sleeping habits.
Swaddle Your Baby
A proper swaddle should serve a couple purposes. One is to help your baby fall asleep with its snugness and warmth. The other is to help him stay asleep. A swaddled baby cannot move around as much to wake himself up and is not as troubled by a startle reflex because his limbs are wrapped tightly to his sides or chest. If you swaddle your baby before you put him in his designated sleeping place, he will be able to sleep more soundly.
Let Your Baby Try to Fall Back to Sleep Alone
This is a bit of a learning curve sometimes for parent and for baby. Babies have a sleep cycle just like you do, it is just a little different. Your baby spends much more time in a light sleep state than you do making it easier to wake him. Hearing your baby stirring does not necessarily mean he is fully awake. If he does wake up for whatever reason, he has to learn how to fall back to sleep on his own. This skill will be especially useful to you when this happens in the middle of the night.
I only pick my baby up after he has been active for quite a while and is starting to squawk. At this point, his fussing is almost always because he is hungry. It happens around the same time every morning. If it is an irregular time I let him try for a minute or two longer than usual before I go over to help him back to sleep (this only happens once or twice a month, I’d say, maybe less).
I am no expert and I think that God blessed us with a pretty good sleeper, but these are the big things that have helped me help my baby sleep through the night. Give them a shot, the sooner the better. I started all these between one and two weeks old.
* I am not a doctor, nor do I pretend to be. If you want to start anything new and you have questions, consult with your doctor. My doctor seemed very surprised my baby had gained weight so well after being breast fed and sleeping the majority of the night. Don’t do anything that will not work for your or your baby.
** Contains helpful affiliate links.